Ivan Rodriguez was a Yankee for 33 games in 2008, but his Hall of Fame career’s most memorable moment occurred five years earlier against his future team.
In 2003, Rodriguez exacted revenge on the organization that eliminated his Texas Rangers from the playoffs three times in a four-year span from 1996 to 1999. He hit .297 in 2003, his only year with the Marlins, and beat the Yankees in the World Series.
“It was a big year, obviously,” Rodriguez told the media Friday on a Hall of Fame conference call.
He will be inducted July 30 alongside Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Bud Selig and John Schuerholz.
“It took me 12 years to win a World Series. I made the playoffs with the Rangers three times, but unfortunately we got eliminated by the Yankees very quickly in the first round. Came to Florida. Nobody expected us to win. Nobody expected us to have the season that we did, but we put that goal in our mind in spring training.”
Rodriguez, the 1999 American League MVP, hit .297 for his career with 311 home runs, 572 doubles and 2,844 hits. He also is widely viewed as one of the game’s top defensive catchers, earning 13 gold gloves — including 10 straight from 1992 to 2001.
For Raines, winning the 1996 and 1998 World Series with the Yankees were career highlights. He said the 1996 championship, in particular, occupies a special place in his memory.
“The one thing about that team in ‘96, . . . it was a team that we didn’t care who was going to be the star from one day to the next,” said Raines, who hit .294, ranks fifth all-time with 808 stolen bases and is tied for 32nd all-time among all outfielders with a 66.4 WAR. “We truly enjoyed playing together and with each other as a team. I think with that mindset, it propelled us to be able to do the things we were able to do.”
Jeff Bagwell did not directly impact any Yankees championships, but perhaps the Red Sox would have ended their World Series drought earlier had they not shipped the power-hitting first baseman to Houston in 1990 before he played a major-league game.
Bagwell won the National League Rookie of the Year the following season and the MVP award in 1994, going on to hit .297 for his career with a .408 on-base percentage, 449 home runs, 488 doubles and 1,529 RBIs.
Bagwell, who was born in Boston and played high school and college baseball in Connecticut, said he grew up watching the Red Sox with his father. But the trade, perhaps, was what sparked his Hall of Fame career.
At the time, the Astros hardly resembled the juggernaut they are this season — or even the 2005 squad that Bagwell helped sneak into the World Series a year after Boston finally won a championship. Houston won 75 games in 1990. Bagwell said debuting as a 23-year-old and getting to play every day without pressure hastened his development.
“It was a tremendous break for me,” he said. “That’s part of it in this game. You need to have some breaks when you’re young to get to the right situation, and that’s what happened to me.”